In the latest part of our series looking at the upbringing of our Academy youngsters, midfielder Pierre Ekwah Elimby talks life in France, changing positions and footballing memories.
What’s your earliest memory of playing football?
My earliest memory... I remember when I was seven or eight I used to play all the time, five-a-side with my brothers. We were doing 2-v-2 – I was just enjoying football at the time.
What was is like growing up in France?
Growing up in France was so good. I didn’t really grow up in my area for long because I left home at 13 but I loved being around my family and my cousins - I really enjoyed that time. France is a bit similar to the UK, the culture is the same but different at the same time. It’s nice to discover a different country and mentality over here. I do miss France sometimes, I go back often but I still miss it because it’s my country. My family and friends are all there.
What’s the biggest difference between being at Chelsea Academy from when you were at Nantes?
The big difference is the way the football is played - the English style of football is different to the French type. In England it’s more intense and physical compared to France - the training at Academy level became more intense when I moved here.
The weather, ah the weather! It’s alright, I’m fine with it, but not at winter time - that’s the worst time to be in England. Here I have the facilities to get on with all the boys in the Academy, Nicolas Tie is French and other players speak French with me, like Thierno Ballo and Dynel Simeu so it was easy for me to settle.
Did you play in any other positions when you were younger?
I did play left wing when I was younger, but I grew and didn’t fit in there so they changed me to left-back. I did well when I played in that position but after I moved to Nantes I played centre-back with them, the national team and Chelsea. But I’ve always wanted to play as a midfielder, like I do now. I’m happy to play in midfield now it’s where I can express myself on the pitch.
Did you have any idols as a youngster?
I didn’t really have any idols when I was younger. I was looking at all players like Zinedine Zidane, Andrea Pirlo, Andres Iniesta, Xavi and Toni Kroos. I was just enjoying what they could do with their team and with the ball.
What’s your earliest memory of watching football?
My earliest memory of watching football and my best one was when I went to see my cousin Paul-Georges Ntep play for the France national team against Belgium in 2015. He had a great game and that was my first time in a real football stadium.
What footballing memory sticks to mind that you are most proud of?
I’ve got two football memories that stick to mind. The first time I played for the France under-16 national team, I was captain and I scored my first goal in the same game - I felt proud and happy at this time. The second was when I scored against Southampton in the last minute of the game, it was a really big match. I had so many emotions going through me.